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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Dec 20, 1999

(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 99)

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Dec 20 Note-1

The $10K women's satellites started with no big fireowrks today at the Lucknow Avadh Gymkhana grasscourts .. Manisha Malhotra started slow against SK Tara but warmed up and won in straight sets .. National junior champion Radhika Tulpule could not get past experienced Archana Venkatraman, somebody she has had trouble beating in the past too .. See all the results in the Lucknow satellites page.

Manisha must be happy with the win today, and must have got some confidence back .. After the 9 match win streak with the Sunderland satallites (Sep 20, UK) title that ended in an injury walkover in the Glasgow satellites final the next week, Manisha had lost quite a few matches as she tried to get back from that shoulder injury .. At the Llewellyn challenger (Oct 11, UK) she lost in the first round of qualies to Yvonne Doyle (IRL,256) 67(7) 46 .. At the Southampton challenger (Oct 18, UK) first round, she lost to Emilie Loit (FRA,102) 36 26, though she had won three rounds of qualies there .. At the Hull challenger (Nov 1, UK) qualifiers, Manisha was the top seed but lost to Natalia Egorova (RUS,421), 36 67(3) in first round .. In the first round at the $10K Deauville satellites (Nov 22, France) she lost 67(4) 36 to Veronica Riznik (ESP,619) .. Then at the Delhi challenger last week, she lost a close one, 64 46 67(4) to Eun Young Ha (KOR,442) .. I may be missing one of her tournaments, but that shows the bad streak she has had, which unfortunately followed such a good streak of wins, just about the best results that any Indian woman not named Nirupama has had .. It's good to see her win one over a talented youngster, 19 year old SK Tara.

Dec 19 Note-1

In the doubles final today at the MTN Cape Town challenge,  the world #6 team (and Soth African Davis Cup team), Adams/DeJager beat LP and Jeff Coetzee, 6-4, 6-3 .. The interesting news is about some fundraising involving the players therem in which LP was of some help .. The players were auctioning off items, and the top item was a bottle of champagne autographed by the world #1 doubles player, of course .. First Kimberly Po of US went up to 11,000 Rands ($1800) to pick up that bottle! .. Then the 29 South African players decided to each put in R1000 each to buy back that bottle from Kimberly .. That came close to $5000 .. How about that ? .. They auctioned off a couple of other items and made some $5500 total for the newly established Player development fund in RSA! .. [source: SAPA, South African news agency]

The qualifying is all done at the $10K Lucknow women's satellites at the Avadh Gymkhana courts .. Two Indians made it in - Nandini Perumal and SK Tara, and a third (Jasleen Randhawa) went in as a lucky loser .. There are quite a few Indians in the main draw .. Manisha is the second seed, Sai, Rushmi and Archana are also seeded .. If she has recovered from the injury hassles she has had over the last few weeks, Manisha will be quite difficult for anybody to beat out there on the grass courts .. See the Lucknow satellite page for all the results so far and some first round matchups.

Here are a couple more articles, from Sunday's newspapers on the Davis Cup captaincy matter - In the Hindustan Times : AITA using team posts to keep everyone happy?, and in the Indian Express,  -- Vijay's recipe - Anand captain, Ramesh coach .. The plot continues to thicken, I guess :-)

Top seed Vinod Sridhar won the AITA ranking tournament at Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh, today, beating the second seed SK Shivshankar, 6-3, 6-3 .. Second seeded Avinash Arun and Rishi Sridhar won the doubles title over top seeds Shivshankar and Kedar Shah 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3 .. I have some of the results of this tournament, and will add a page in the archives for this .. I have just added a page at the archives for the Central India AITA ranking tournament for men and women that got done a couple of weeks back at Allahabad .. Never saw any scores from there, but the winners, semifinalists etc are at that page (Asif Ismail beat young Kamala Kannan in the final for men, and young Liza Pereira beat SK Tara in the women's final)

Just got the December rankings from AITA .. will post them soon.

Dec 18 Note-2

Leander and Jeff Coetzee beat Brent Haygarth (#43) and Byron Talbot (#137), 6-4, 6-1 today in the semifinals of the Cape Town MTN challenger exhibition tournament -- They face the John Laffnie deJager (#18) and David Adams (#12) in the final tomorrow .. Not bad fpr LP and Coetzee to take out two good doubles players so easily  .. Tomorrow's final against the world #6 team, Adams/DeJager, will be tougher .. They beat Norval/Ullyett in the other semifinals, 6-4, 7-5 ..  LP-Coetzee were seeded directly to the semifinals here, by the way..

Dec 18 Note-1

On the Davis Cup captain matter -- Here are the many newspaper reports over the last few days -- Here is the PTI news report today in the Indian Express - AITA likely to rope in Ramesh, Anand .. IE on the 16th - Mukherjea's place up for grabs .. Here is Times of India on the 18th - Ramesh is frontrunner .. TOI on the 17th - I have no regrets, says Mukherjea .. TOI on the 16th - Mukerjea wishes to step down .. Here is Hindusthan Times on the 18th - Race for Davis Cup captaincy hots up  .. There has also been a few articles in The Pioneer (Delhi) but that newspaper doesn't archive the links  .. On related matters, here is The Telegraph (Calcutta) on the 17th - Lebanon will be tough, says Rico , and on the 16th - Jaideep quits for personal reasons .. Here is another article (that link may go away later) in the Mid-Day Mumbai - Mahesh bhupathi to split with coach Enrico Piperno (which even mentions LP as a "playing captain" as a possibility - that is one that I have not seen mentioned in any other article and I doubt if that is under consideration by anybody or that LP ever wanted that! .. The title of the article is a bit misleading too - more on that below)

Anyway, some of it are all rumors .. AITA may indeed have made up their mind, or is close to it, even though "officially" the selection committee will announce it only on the 26th .. RK Khanna of AITA has still been saying that all the names are under consideration, but that may not mean much .. AITA asked LP and MB earlier and they indicated their preferences (LP said then that he was told bluntly that it would be their selection and that they might not go by what the players' suggested) .. As for LP and MB, I know that they would be fine with Anand or Ramesh - the former is generally considered more outgoing and easy going and the latter has a reputation of being reserved and as a tougher disciplinarian .. Both have very good credentials and stature to command respect and be good captains - and their motivational techniques would be different as well .. Of course a few others (such as even Akhtar Ali, whose names came up in an article above) would be fine too, but it appears that the rumors are now narrowing down to Anand and Vijay .. Many of the newspaper opinions about how much for or against LP and MB are with respect to each candidate are sometimes a bit overstated .. By the way, I did talk to Mahesh yesterday, and he said LP and he had talked at Hartford in detail about the pros and cons of various people as their captains (they even came up with some options which would surprise people who are trying to guess what they both must be thinking! -- they did not agree on all the angles, but did have some consensus opinions then) .. Basically they both understand what each other's preferences are and why, but they expect that they will be available and happy to play for the country once it all shakes out (unless AITA ends up doing something really weird that would leave everybody unhappy - no such indications so far) ..

There have been newspaper reports on angles like "LP likes Ramesh", "MB may not like Ramesh", "Rico needs to be out before anything can happen", etc, etc - but I think there may be only partial truths in most such guesses .. One of the newspapers (The Pioneer) had written that Mahesh was said to be "dead against" Ramesh Krishnan .. From what I know, there is nothing like that .. Clearly Leander, having played with Ramesh (in Davis Cup and at Olympics in Barcelona) would know him more and be closer to him, much more than Mahesh who probably hasn't had much opportunity to build up a rapport with RK ..  And of course there are other angles such as the Krishnans and the Bhupathis having their own academies though they are not directly competing with each other or anything, etc, etc ..  I don't think any of those would come in the midst of people who would be representing India - and we know the patriotism that all these parties have shown in the past .. In other words, don't take all the so called "backroom drama" all that seriously .. I expect LP, MB, Sri, Fazal, etc, to be quite enthusiastic and ready to handle the task at hand, which is winning the Davis Cup ties for India, in the end, unless AITA surprises us with somebody that nobody is expecting at this point .. Even the often stated "LP wanted Jaideep out" line is only partially true, as LP basically was only saying that he personally would like a change to bring in some more spirit -- after the kind of losses we have lately had, it all starts playing on the player psyche and it becomes tough for any captain ..  and I am sure LP would have said that about whichever captain was at the helm - and he would also admit that the captain is not the cause for all the losses too .. Anyway, LP seems to have spoken frankly about what was indeed the best thing for the Davis Cup team, which is to bring in some newer dynamics into the team and he seems to have taken the blame for saying what was right! -- [it's not unlike Gullickson being canned as US captain - his players did not really dislike him, including even Sampras, but they all wanted a change, I believe - sometime a country cannot get out of a rut, without changing something, and changing players is not an option, you know!] .. Anyway, people like Ramesh and Anand would be prefectly fine as captain .. However, I don't know about this this option reported by PTI yesterday - with both RK and AA, one as captain and one as coach (I don't know who for what) .. I wonder how that would work .. It sounds a bit complicated .. Anyway, let us wait and see ..

Mahesh's recovery is going as planned and he is doing fine, but he may take longer to get back to full strength than what was being reported before, I fear .. The worst case scanarios still puts it much earlier than Olympics and hopefully with at least a few tournaments before French Open .. We will have to see if he will be available for the Davis Cup second round (within a couple of months after the Lebanon tie) .. And as for Mahesh's plans, he will need to judiciously find some time to play singles too once he returns, even though doubles practice before Olympics will be the priority .. MB said that he had indeed decided a couple of months back  that Bob Carmichael would be his singles coach too - thus both LP and MB were to be soon coached by the same "Nails" (MB holds Bob in high regard and he is a guy not interested in any goosip and confusion) .. Hesh is not sure now though, how exactly it would work out during singles at the smaller tournaments that he may have to play at first after returning from injury, where he and Leander wouldn't be together .. Thus he may have to have a contract with someone like Rico Piperno as the coach for at least some of the time next year .. Anyway, this is all a few months away and he has time to decide how exactly his singles coaching would go ..  Here are some excerpts from the Mid-day, Mumbai article (link above) which seemed to imply that MB and Rico may be splitting up: "Piperno, however, denied the breakup,  saying, ďIn 2000, Iíve some family problems for which Iíll not be able to tour with Mahesh for 30 weeks. I informed him that Iíll be available only for 12 weeks. He wanted to know whether he could look for another coach for the remaining 18 weeks. I said yes, because to be on top of the tour you need to be under the constant guidance of a qualified coach. He is like my younger brother. So any question of splitting up is rubbish." .. That is how Rico looks at it .. I am sure MB can find another coach too, but basically he may need to wait a bit after his return, till everything settles down and LP and MB could be playing singles at similar events, before he could use Bob full-time as his coach for singles (in doubles, they were both already being often coached together by Bob, and that won't change in the events where they will play doubles together) .. Anyway, this is where things are, as of now.

At the Delhi challenger today, 2nd seed Marosi beat top seed Garbin, 6-2, 1-1, as Tathiana conceded the match .. Pity that Niru could not somehow pull off a win in that close semi yesterday - she could have had the title! .. Congrats  go to Katalin Marosi .. See all the final scores, at the Delhi challenger page.

Dec 17 Note-2

The newspaper reports on Nirupama's semifinal match today unanimously say that this was a great match .. After 14 matches in the last 12 days and 6 in the previous three days, I would have expected that Niru would have trouble had she lost the first set and had to play three sets .. To some extent that is what happened .. She had some chances in the first set, but could not close it out .. Reportedly a clearly bad line call late in the set when she could have had Marosi facing two break points was crucial .. Niru did not let that bother her though, and what happened was a couple of bad points in the tiebreaker after it was 3-3 .. Just when people thought Niru would fold, she came back roaring in the second set and tied it up .. In the 3rd set, it was just a question of who would last that little bit longer, and Marosi came through at the end of the 2 hour 20 minutes match! .. Though it was 3-6, it was a close set with the games being close .. Niru said that her service let her down today, especially the second serve - also her mobility was a bit hampered, which is often what leaves her in trouble in the later rounds of most tournaments .. The day became worse for Niru, as her doubles partner, Tathiana Garbin, came out of her singles semi win with a pulled thigh .. They had to concede midway through the first set of the doubles final, when down 2-5 .. Niru can be happy to have taken care of business as far as the Australian Open qualies entry is concerned, and for putting together two good tournaments back-to-back and picking up  more points in two consecutive weeks than at any other time in a couple of years .. She also showed the fighter in her, and showed her class.

Kunal Pradhan says in The Pioneer, that this Niru-Marosi match was the finest match of the tournament (perhaps one of the best women's professional tour matches in India in a long time), and that it was a pity that the stands were pretty empty as this tournament was very badly marketed, according to him .. Lack of publicity is one aspect that we have been hearing complaints about, for a while, that AITA needs to do something about .. As I said before, I give them credit for pulling out their own money for bringing an event like this (the sponsors are certainly waking up to tennis these days in India, but not every tournament can get complete title sponsorship - this one did not have a title sponsor), but something needs to be done about marketing an event and publicizing it .. Pretty much every event held in Delhi has had trouble with crowd support .. Some of the state associations seem to do better on this count .. One of the key steps in professionalizing and internationalizing tennis in India is also marketing the events .. Why not take some of the money that goes away in events like Asia Cup that nobody seems to want, and spend it on some marketing folks who could come up with some schemes .. Especially if AITA, DTA, etc, do not have the manpower ? .. All one has to look at is how well IMG does the marketing in India for Gold Flake (much as I have complained about a lot of affairs related to the Gold Flake Open, we have to give credit to IMG for that!) .. There is a need to get a few more people in the stands at these other events - most of the time people have no idea that some pretty good tennis matches can be watched for some cheap tickets - or no tickets for that matter .. If nothing works, just let the local schools and PT teachers know about it and let the kids come and watch some matches -- a few letters to schools with ticket offers can't hurt .. It could be the same kids who would show up in future events and perhaps may even buy a ticket or two ! .. Even better if a kid or two took to tennis after seeing a good match .. May be the lack of interest from AITA in marketing tennis to spectators is because of whatever money that comes from the TV deal with Doordarshan ..  Anyway, I am talking about matters I know nothing about .. It looks clear from newspaper reports that AITA needs to do something about publicity for the tournaments they directly organize - so I thought I would leave my two cents in.

Talking of TV,  I just read that Doordarshan has lost out to Star Sports in getting the rights to cover the Chennai Goldflake Open starting in two weeks (damn, we are that close to Goldflake already!) .. Doordarshan is a strange animal .. There is probably no other TV network anywhere else in the world that shows so many smaller events like futures, satellites and challengers (as long as it is not on a Sunday when they show movies in the afternoon, I am told, they have no problem finding time during the many useless programming hours to show some tennis - and they have a contract with AITA for that! :-)) .. DD's problem is when it comes to the bigger events .. Look at how few grand slam and Hartford doubles matches of our duo they have televised (basically, they have no clue that LP-MB are a pretty big draw on TV and that money can be made, I have to guess) .. Now they have lost the Gold Flake Open also .. I shouldn't complain - may be it's because they are old-fashioned (:-)) that they keep covering smaller events .. Perhaps we don't want them to change - It's nice to have a good old "chalta hai" network in the middle of all the crass commercialization of TV in the world, right ? :-)

LP plays doubles tomorrow (Saturday) at the Cape Town exhibition .. The opponents for LP and Jeff Coetzee were to be determined today - I have not seen the scores yet ..

All kinds of rumors flying around about Davis Cup captain and coach .. More later on that.

Dec 17 Note-1

At the Delhi challenger semi today, #2 Katalin Marosi (HUN,157) d. #6 Niruapama, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in a 2 hour 15 minutes match  .. Tathiana Garbin beat Rika Hiraki, 6-3, 6-3 .. The doubles was scheduled to be played after sufficient rest for Tathiana, but she was also hurt in the singles match and so I am not sure if they played the final today .. As for Nirupama, he troubles in singles semifinals continue, as this is her 5th SF loss in singles in a row now (in about three years - 2 coming in back to back weeks now) ..

Dec 16 Note-2

Just a note to inform everybody -- Nirupama's matches should be on national TV, friday afternoon in India .. The singles semifinals and doubles final will be on Doordarshan starting 2 pm on Friday [source: The Hindu] .. Is this the first time that Niru is appearing on Indian national TV ? .. Possibly so, unless any fed Cup matches were ever televised .. Only the second challenger in India, and she did not reach semi last year .. If they cover all three matches on Friday, people will get to see her in two of them .. I hope some of you from India watching it on TV can bring scores during the matches, and so I will schedule a chat session at our chatroom (starting 2 pm India .. 12.30 am PST, 3.30 am EST, USA .. 8.30 am London) ..

Dec 16 Note-1

At the beginning of the week, The Hindu asked in their Delhi challenger preview article - "Can Nirupama pull a Leander ?" .. So far the answer is - yes! .. She pulled a minor upset today - #6 Nirupama d. #4 Wynn Prakusya (INA,198), 6-2, 1-6, 6-0 to advance to the second consecutive singles semifinal .. She goes up against the 2nd seed Katalin Marosi (HUN,157) in the semifinal .. The other semifinal will be between #1 Tathiana Garbin who beat Lorna Woodroffe and #5 Rika Hiraki who beat #3 Lucie Ahl .. Niru added more to her kitty by reaching the second doubles final of the year too! .. Today #2 Niru/Garbin d. #3 Crook/Davies, 6-3 6-1 .. They face the top seeds Hiraki/Woodroffe in the final (probably saturday) .. See the Delhi challenger page.

Niru has beaten Katalin Marosi (then ranked #291) a couple of times in the past -- in the Getxo challenger on clay in Spain in 98 July, 46 60 63, and then in the second round of the US Open qualies on hardcourts this August  - I am sure Marosi (then ranked 165) would remember that 61 61 shellacking that Niru gave her in 42 minutes .. But this is another day, and Marosi is again the one to beat here, seeded 2rd and looking good so far with straight set wins .. Unless six matches in three days has left Niru a too tired, she does havea psychological advantage over Katalin ..

The singles semi gives Niru 13 total WTA points including 3 bonus points .. That is a two week total of 25 points to add to the 80.5 she has which will bring her up about 40 spots from her current #246 ranking and assure her of a spot in the qualifying rounds at the Australian Open .. In doubles she has now picked up 16 points to add to the 11 she had last week for a total of 132 WTA points and a ranking around #180 ..  In doubles this year, she has reached a semi at the Biel challenger (w/ Bacheva in March), a semi at Budapest (w/ S-H Park in June) reached a final at Albuquerque (w/ Maruska in Oct.), Semi at Largo, Florida (w/ Maruska in Oct.), a semi at Manila (w/ Garbin last week) and a final now at Delhi  (again w/ Garbin) .. Since July 97 till June 99 she only had one doubles final (Lexington challenger 98) and one semifinal (Biel 99) in doubles .. Now she has has gone semi or better in 4 of the last six challenger she has played doubles in! .. Her doubles ranking had fallen below 250 during this year - as she gone over a year with hardly much results in doubles -- now she has nicely come back up to her highest doubles ranking in a long time, and has a chance to play qualies, or even main draw, at the Australian Open.  Check Nirupama's short bio page -- I think I have almost all her big results (challenger semis or better) in the list there.

Dec 15 Notes

I received all four official draws (single, doubles and both qualifier draws) of the Delhi challenger today from Mr. PF Montes of AITA [a computer glitch there caused the delay, or he would have been able to get me the draws earlier] .. I have converted and archived them all (links from the Delhi challenger page) .. Take a look - the qualifier rounds were much more elaborate than I thought, and a lot of Indians and foreigners took part -- didn't know that Archana and Arthi had to come through qualies to enter main draw doubles .. Sheetal Gautham was in the singles qualies, but could not get past Urska Vesenjak, the talented Solvakian girl who took out Vishika Chhetri also in the qualies and then Sai in the main draw first round!

Good news! -- Niru is in yet another singles QF and yet another doubles semi, following up on her two semis last week ! ..  Today, Nirupama d. Marina Caiazzo (FRA,326) 6-1 6-3 .. Second win over Caiazzo in two weeks for Niru (she had won 46 61 61 against her at Majila last week) .. Niru now faces 19 yr old and 4th seeded Wynn Prakusya (INA,198) in the Quarterfinal .. Niru has beaten Wynn before (at the Fed Cup in Thailand when India beat Indonesia -- Niru won 60 64 over Wynn, then ranked #184) .. Young Prakusya is very talented, and this could be a very good match tomorrow .. Archana went down to Katalin Marosi the second seed, 26 06 ..  In doubles the second seeded Nirupama and Garbin had no trouble getting past Rika Fujiwara and Wynn Prakusya, 63 62 .. They face the 3rd seeds Helen Crook and Victoria Davies in the semifinal .. The only seed to be upset today was the 7th seed Lorna Woodroffe, who lost to Abigail Tordoff, also of Britain ..  All four doubles seeds are in the semis and the top six seeds are in the singles quarterfinals .. This promises to be a very high-quality challenger from now on! .. Niru has picked up 7 points this week to add to the 12 she had last week in singles, and thus put back the 17 points that dropped off the computer this monday .. She can pick up 6 more for a QF win tomorrow .. She would need to do that to come back from #246 to around #210 with a realistic chance to enter the qualifiers at the Australian Open (which is a 96-draw qualies, which would probably close at around 210 or so) .. She is at around #217 or so in rankings right now .. In doubles she has picked up close to 25 points in two weeks that should raise her ranking from #199 to around #180 - not bad!

Some news from South Africa .. Leander has reached there (with his parents, girlfriend, and the girfriend's parents -- all on a nice vacation) .. He was in a relaxed mood at the press conference - he is really the top attraction at the exhibition event and has been getting nice press coverage .. About the 5'8" tall and 22 yr old Jeff Coetzee whom he will be playing exhibition doubles with, LP said, "I'm really looking forward to playing with Jeff this week .. I met him about 18 months ago and he is really a super guy .. I stay away from making predictions so I am not prepared to say how Jeff and I will do. I just hope we can put it together. The problem is that we are both so short that they will try and lob us every time we come to the net" .. :-) ... So, the agency news story promptly started, "Situation vacant: World number one doubles player seeks partner. Must be tall enough not to be lobbed!" .. Funny stuff .. LP talked about how he is friends with a lot of South Africans (starting with Marcos Ondruska, whom he beat at the Wimbledon junior final) and how much he liked RSA during his last trip in late 97 for the Mandela tribute exhibitions .. The news story continues - He and Bhupathi could well be looking to an Olympic Gold medal next year, to surpass the bronze Paes won at the Atlanta Olympics in1996 .. In fact, India's previous Olympic medal went to the hockey team in 1972, of which Paes' father  was a member. His mother, said Paes, also participated in the 1972 Olympics and then he let us all in on a little secret. "I was actually conceived in Munich," he said ..  Did you ever know that ? .. I wonder how Lee knows :-)

Dec 14 Note-2

Other than Nirupama, none of the Indians could do anything today at the Delhi challenger, unfortunately .. The good news is that Niru easily won her first round singles and doubles matches .. In singles, Niru beat Arthi venkatraman in 45 minutes, 6-0, 6-3 .. In doubles, the second seeds, Nirupama and Garbin won their first round match 6-1, 6-1 also .. I had hoped that at least one among Manisha, Sai and Rushmi (our #2, #3, and #4 players) would advance, but all of them went down in the first round .. Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes .. Also, in doubles Manisha and Ka-Po Tong of Hong Kong went down in three sets in a good match against the 4th seed .. Sai and Rushmi went up against the top seeds Hiraki and Woodroffe and it was going to be a tough one to pull off .. Archana and Arthi also lost in doubles .. So, as we move to the second round, Archana in singles is the only Indian left, other than Nirupama .. Niru seems to be in good form according to newspaper reports .. The problem with Niru has rarely been form, it has been more of a fitness thing, once she plays two or three days of tough tennis .. Especially since she is coming off an illness, we have to see how far she will hold up - let us hope for the best .. See the Delhi challenger page for results.

The newspapers are reporting today that Jaideep Mukherjea has decided to step down as the Davis Cup captain, though AITA has not apparently accepted the resignation yet .. Jaideep has had to take a lot of blame for some untimely injuries and some bad luck that caused India to have a string of tough away ties in the world group, not to mention the worst of it that happened at Seogwipo in Korea this year with Leander throwing up with a bad stomach and losing after serving for the match in the 3rd set ..  Not sure if Jaideep could have changed the outcomes in any of the ties we lost, as we were clearly the underdogs in every one of those losses, except the Korea loss this year  - but the general complaint has been that he has not been a miracle-worker in pulling off the kind of wins that his predecessor Naresh Kumar used to pull off solely with motivational skills [but then how many are there as good as Naresh Kumar?] .. It is perhaps time for a change at the top, but I don't think Jaideep needs to hang his head in shame - he was not the reason for most of the losses - though it may be fair to say that he was unable to do much in avoiding those either .. Let us all thank Mr. Mukherjea for his tenure as the head .. There have been some tremendous wins under him too - the most recent being the one at Delhi against Chile in late 97 .. He did his job in a rather low-key way, conducted himself in an honorable manner and represented India with class .. I hope people would give him a gracious send-off and not the usual uncermonious kick in the behind that India gives to most former captains/coaches in most sports [s]ecial mention: cricket, hockey, football :-)] .. As for new names, Anand Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan are the main names everyone is talking about .. Some newspaper reports suggest that Anand may be the one that nobody has any opposition to .. AITA had apparently asked for Leander's input but LP said to newspapers last week that they also told him that it is their decision and they may not go by his wishes ..  They would certainly ask Mahesh too, and a decison should be forthcoming by the end of the month or so, I believe ..  I agree with the procedure  - I think they should ask the players for input, keep their opinions confidential, and make the decision themseleves, keeping the players away from any potential friction with whoever will be the captain .. Based on what I know, both LP and MB have their favorites, but would not hold anything against whoever becomes the captain ..

Dec 14 Note-1

Some news on the MTN Cape Town challenge that Leander would be playing at, this week .. Four foreign players have been invited for this event - Andrei Pavel (#41) of Romania, Andrew Ilie (#54) of Australia, Leander, and Kimberly Po of USA .. All the top players from South Africa would be taking part as well .. I think there will be singles events also, but I don't know if LP will be playing singles also .. In doubles, he will partner Jeff Coetzee, the 22 yr old South African who is one of the players who has  made the biggest improvement in doubles in the last 16 months or so, coming up from around #200 to #73 now .. It will be a progressive draw in doubles, and LP-JC will join only in the semifinal, against the winners of the QF between Marius Barnard/ Chris Haggard and Brent Haygarth/ Byron Talbot, a couple of good South African teams .. In singles, Marcos Ondruska (winner of last year's challenge), and other South African players like Wayne Ferreira, Wesley Whitehouse, David Nainkin, etc, will all be there .. On the women's side, the "little assassin" Amanda Coetzer (#11) of RSA is the one to beat for Kimberly Po (#127), along with other good RSA players like Jessica Steck, Nannie deVilliers, Marian DeSwardt etc [source: Business Day, Johannesburg] .. This is the exhibition season in South Africa - they just had a one week deal of three matches featuring Steffi Graf and Amanda Coetzer which Graf won 2-1 .. They sold some 15000 tickets for that series! .. RSA conducts these events to promote the game of tennis - they have had trouble coming up with sponsorship for regular tour events (they used to have some big events in the 70s, but not anymore) .. As long as Leander comes out of there with no injuries or anything, it's not a bad idea to stay in playing shape and enjoy a vacation .. Any time he gets out of India, I am happy, as all kinds of unnecessary distractions seem to start when he is in India ..

Dec 13 Note-2

There is a nice article by Kadambari Murali in Tuesday's Indian Express about the search being on for a fourth player in Davis Cup as Mahesh won't be there .. There are comments by Shyam Minotra, the chairman of the Davis Cup selection committee about some potential 4th player - Sandeep Kirtane, Vishal Uppal, Vijay Kannan, Mustafa Ghouse and Sunil Lumar .. It doesn't particularly matter, as the fourth player will almost certainly not play a match, and it's only going to be an honorary inclusion, other than for doubles practice before the tie against Lebanon .. Those are probably the players to look at, but I think Mr. Minotra's comments on each of them are pretty much spot on (just my uneducated opinion - based on just their results!) .. It looks like Vishal Uppal has brought himself into serious contention with some good results lately - by the way Vishaal is now #7 in ATP ranking from India with the 6 pts for the R1 win at the Jaipur challenger last week .. I only have a question on why the 5th ranked Indian in the ATP ranks still does not even merit a mention - Harsh Mankad .. He had better results than everyone of them in the last satellites he played in India 7 month back, and is doing fine getting some good physical training and match experience in the US collegiate scene .. But what's new, Harsh is never in the plans! .. Sorry, I have a soft corner for this guy and only I seem to ever bring up his name .. Another name to merit some consideration would be Vinod Sridhar, but he hurt his chances with not-so-terrific results in the latest satellites.

Here is Kadambari writing about the mess at the Delhi challengers - The AITA said the decision to do away with ball boys and linesmen was the International Tennis Federation referee's. Referee Hany El Khafeif said he "wanted to save the organisers the burden of costs and organising the ball boys etc.'' .. Huh ?? .. This is funny .. Anyway, apparently the ITF rules do not really allow this - but there probably are all kinds of discretionary powers to ITF referees and it's all immaterial from tomorrow onwards as there will indeed be linesmen and ballboys!

Dec 13 Note-1

Poor Manisha Malhotra was returning from some injury rehabs (the problems started when she was doing well and reached both the singles and doubles finals in the British satellites a couple of months back but withdrew with injury) and it showed, as she lost today to #442 Eun-Young Ha (KOR) at the $25K Delhi women's challenger in a 3rd set tiebreaker .. Manisha lost the points from last year's qualifier wins and dropped in rankings today by 36 spots to #351 .. She gets one WTA point only at Delhi this time .. The other loss today was by wildcard Radhika Tulpule, who went up against another youngster,  Anna Nefedova (#664) of Russia and lost in three sets .. The one to win today was wildcard Archana Venkatraman, reportedly using her bread-and-butter shots - the lobs that frustrate the opponents .. She won in three sets .. All the big names play tomorrow - the top seed Garbin, the 6th seed Nirupama etc .. Niru is playing doubles with Tathiana Garbin again - they reached the semi last week at Manila, and should be expected to be tough here again .. Apparently as of Monday evening a few more players had still not arrived from Manila via Tokyo, but Niru somehow reached early with a direct flight from Manila ! .. See the Delhi challenger page (as always, I update that page with scores as soon as I get any) .. The bad story in the newspapers today was that there were no ballboys or linesmen at the challenger - apparently the ITF supervisor, who is from Dubai, said that it is allowed by ITF (and only 6 matches and no doubles were scheduled today) .. AITA may have tried to save some money there, and apparently will have ballboys and linesmen from tomorrow .. I believe there is no title sponsor for this event and AITA may be putting in some of their own money for this event - something that most national associations don't do .. If that's the case I will go easy on complaining .. Otherwise it is really a shame.

Leander has come up to #142 in the rankings .. I believe this is the last ranking with the old system that ATP will publish ..  As for the new system next year, despite all the hype from ATP, nothing much will change, except for a new points table and 18 best tournaments being used .. They will make a big deal of the "Race ranka" based on calendar year points (the old "Race to Hannover" ranks), which won't make sense till at least after Wimbledon anyway .. Nobody in the public has yet seen the new points table, except that a grand slam title will be worth 200 points, a "masters series" (new name for Super 9s) title will be worth 100 and and the next level will be worth 50 - and no bonus points any more (not sure of the next three levels - only six levels in the new table - may be another championship levels and two more world-series levels .. The challenger/satellite/futures may count only for "entry ranks" and not for "race ranks") .. The points are effectively about the same as what we get if you divide by 4.5 or 5 the points earned now in GS, Super 9s, championship series events [about 950 for GS, 425 for Super 9, 225 for championship series] .. The ranks that will be used for all useful purposes such as entries to tournaments will be the "entry ranks", which are based on 52 weeks' points in the best 18 tournaments for each player .. This rank list will not show much difference from the current list, as most top-200 players have more than 18 events and hardly have any points beyond the best 10 or so .. Expect Leander, for instance, to be ranked around 135 to 150 in the new entry ranks too .. The points from this year will stay on (probably divided by 5 to roughly match it with the new ranking table in effect next year - or they might recompute the points for this years results with the new table) and will be replaced each week in 2000 by points according to the new ranking table .. Or equivalently they can use new points multipled by five to match it with old points - not clear what ATP will be doing .. ATP has been releasing only hype so far, and a lot of procedural details are not available for the public yet (I also heard that they actually have not worked out all the details - horror - and that that is why only hype is coming out!) .. Anyway, my close examination of the Chennai entry list reveals that they used the current points table itself (but with best 18) for the entry rank list and that they probably did not recompute the ranks with the new points table.  Interestingly, the best 14 and best 18 based on the current points would result in exactly the same 25 direct entries for Chennai - only the order in the waiting list (ie qualifier entry list) would be somewhat different .. I had noticed the dicrepancies when I posted the entry list at the Chennai Goldflakes page -- that is why I looked carefully to figure out what was up.

Anyway players will be able to keep the current points and defend them just as before .. In other words, in sum total, nothing much will change - despite the hype that it will be a "clean slate" for everyone in January ! .. Nope .. It isn't - unless we care for the "race rankings" -- we shouldn't, till midway through next year .. And, oh, they are also hyping up the fact that all who make the entry to grand slams and masters series will *have to* play those events, or they will be "docked" spots in the best 18 .. Nobody who is not injured (except for three or four Spaniards who avoid the grass at Wimbledon) ever skip the grand slams and most top 65 players play at least 7 or 8 super-9s now, and so this is not going to be much of a change either .. Things *may* get a bit more straight-forward though, for the causal tennis fan .. Till I see the full points table and satellite/futures points, I can't comment on how the ranks below the top-400 would change.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 13 ..